Kim Jeejeebhoy, head chef at Carlisle’s Cascata Bistro, likes to compare making a meal to painting a picture.
“Use simple, good quality ingredients and the perfect colours will come together effortlessly. It all depends on the mood.”
It was a revealing remark that came to my mind on Monday night as I watched her and her sous chef Rosie deftly preparing a creamy roasted red pepper sauce. The vivid bright red colour of the sauce was toned down a bit as the cream was added to the reduction, making a silky coral ribbon that was laid over the stuffed turkey breast. The ambiance of the autumnal season was suggested in both the content and the appearance of the food and plating.
Jeejeebhoy jokes that her maiden name was Sinclair, but she changed it because it was too hard to spell!
She has been working at Cascata Bistro for about a year and a half now. Her previous careers were in banking and working as a law clerk, but now she obviously has found her métier.
“I had a cooking grandmother,” she recalls, “and I started out working in restaurants and catering. I tried the other jobs and then said, ‘to heck with that’ and got my chef’s certificate from Liaison College.”
One of the things she likes about working at Cascata is the latitude given to her to design menus around seasonal, local market products. The menus are changed weekly — sometimes daily — depending on what’s fresh and available.
“The menu is Italian inspired,” she says, “and there are always a couple of pastas. I also make a lot of fish dishes — a cioppino (a tomatoey seafood stew which originated in San Franciso) which is very popular and I serve a lot of grouper. There is a very popular dish of grilled scallops with vegetables and salad — I think many people are happy not to have the carbo’ overload.”
“But,” she laughs, “I also make plenty of steak with mushroom ravioli.”
Jeejeebhoy and the owner of the restaurant, Angela Checchia, present a seamlessly working duo. The whippet-thin Checchia is an athlete known for her prowess in the triathlon.
“It’s a race involving three disciplines,” she explains, “swimming, running and cycling. Nowadays I am primarily a cyclist and we have a Cascata cycling group and one of the bathrooms in the restaurant is decorated with a bike motif.”
She says that she grew up in the industry and has been working in restaurants since she was 15. Still, her first career was as a clinician working with children with autism. Two and a half years ago she saw the building in Carlisle come up for lease and it seemed to speak to her. The structure is a century old home which was at one time an unsuccessful butchery and then a bakery. It is a large home and the spacious restaurant is divided into three rooms plus patio. Still, the kitchen is small and Checcia says that although they could seat 70 people, they could never serve that many at once.
She tentatively looked into getting the licence thinking, “I wonder who would manage it — certainly not me.”
But desire and determination overcame her qualms and now she’s the sole owner of this incorporated business. She notes in a Globe and Mail business section interview,
“With a strong partner in life, my husband Chad Smith, I’m able to balance the needs of life and work. Like most small business owners, I wear many hats. I couldn’t do it without the support of my great team, which includes a head chef, sous chef, servers and back-of-the-house staff who all play crucial roles in Cascata’s success. A business like this cannot thrive without the right people.
We love to design a chef-inspired menu every day and events like our wine and beer-makers’ dinners, live music and Sunday group cycling keep us active and engaged with our guests.”
And here’s the recipe for that red pepper sauce. At our Go Cooking session it was used on turkey, but it would be wonderful on all sorts of grilled meat and poultry.
Red Pepper Cream Sauce
from Chef Kim Jeejeebhoy, Cascata Bistro
1 large jar roasted red peppers with 1/3 liquid
500 ml. 35 % cream
1 tsp minced garlic
splash of white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1) Add all ingredients to saucepan and bring them to a boil.
2) Simmer and reduce until thickened.
3) Purée sauce and pass through a sieve. (The sauce may need further thickening by placing back on the heat and reducing.